ACADEMIC PLANNING COUNCIL
Minutes of November 7, 2005
3 p.m., Holmes Student Center – HSC 505
Present: Bose, Cassidy, House, Legg, Levin, Munroe, Prawitz, Russo, Schoenbachler, Thompson, Waas, Williams
Guests: Gregory Carnes, Chair, Department of Accountancy; Ann Carrel, Assistant Director, Executive M.B.A.; Carolinda Douglass, Acting Coordinator, Assessment Services; Rowene Linden, Advisor and Assistant to the Chair, Department of Accountancy; Mona Salmon, Assistant Director, Evening M.B.A.; William Tallon, Interim Dean, College of Business; Harold Wright, Director, M.B.A. program; James Young, will become Chair in January, Department of Accountancy
The meeting was called to order at 3:05 p.m. It was moved and seconded to approve the minutes of October 31, 2005, as distributed, and the motion passed unanimously.
Legg introduced Greg Carnes, Chair, Department of Accountancy; Rowene Linden, Advisor and Assistant to the Chair, Department of Accountancy; Jim Young, who will become the department chair in January; Ann Carrel, Assistant Director, Executive M.B.A.; Mona Salmon, Assistant Director, Evening M.B.A.; Harold Wright, Director, M.B.A. program; Bill Tallon, Interim Dean, College of Business. Legg stated that there is one change on the agenda; we will discuss the M.B.A. program first and then Accountancy. Legg turned the meeting over to Waas for the presentation of the subcommittee report.
Waas said that all of the programs being reviewed today are strong programs. The M.B.A. program is an interdisciplinary program supported by five departments within the College of Business. Wright explained that the M.B.A. program is offered in three different formats: evening, executive, and professional. The executive and professional tracks are offered using a lock step format.
Waas noted said that there were many departmental strengths. The departments that comprise the M.B.A. are nationally recognized, and the program is responsive to needs within NIU’s service region through their flexible delivery systems. The program has been successful in obtaining financial support for endowed scholarships and maintains good contact with the business community. The student participation in performance-based consulting experiences through the Business Experiential Learning Center and the excellent instructional facilities at NIU Naperville are also strengths of the program. Thompson asked how many students participate in the Business Experiential Learning Center. Wright replied that we have different projects at different sites that are close to our students, i.e., Nicor. The center is very new. Tallon added that it has been in place for about two years. Previously, it was housed in a department where the project focus was primarily information systems oriented. It has been moved to the college level where the focus of projects is cross disciplinary. Engineering students have also recently begun participating in projects.
Waas said that one of the discussion points is the informal mechanisms for the M.B.A. program to provide input to departments. The coordination between the M.B.A. program and the constituent departments appears strong, but there is no structural way that this is ensured. There are other aspects of the program that could be discussed in the best practice section (e.g., program flexibility) that may be more appropriate than the M.B.A. colloquium lecture series. The program is too modest about their achievements. Upgrading is needed at the Hoffman Estates facility in order to keep it competitive with other instructional facilities.
Douglass noted that the M.B.A. is only offered off campus. Is there no demand for an on-campus program? Wright responded that the on-campus M.B.A. program was eliminated in 1984. Most of the students in this program study on a part-time basis (80 percent), and 95 percent of our students are receiving some type of educational benefit from their companies. The average student age in the program is: evening format – 29 years old, professional format – 32 years old, and executive format – 38 years old. Most of these students work full-time and have family responsibilities.
Bose said that Rockford has been losing enrollment and this is a state-of-the-art facility. Wright replied that we are eliminating the program in Rockford. Rockford has lost companies that support educational ventures, and the students in Rockford are not as well prepared as our other students. Bose asked if there were other competitors for this program in Rockford. Wright responded that the only competitor is Rockford College, which has higher tuition than we do and is not accredited. There is also a program available in Beloit.
Cassidy asked what the concerns were for the Hoffman Estates facility. Wright said there are issues with the physical facility. The college spent $65,000 this year upgrading the facilities in the classrooms we use, but the building needs some updating. The sound system also needs to be updated at Hoffman Estates. We have a magnificent building in Naperville. Cassidy clarified that the issues are associated with the physical environment, and Wright agreed with this statement.
Waas turned to the recommendations for the future. He noted that the three tracks are a strength of the program, but in the reading materials there is a little confusion about the focus of each track. Do you feel that you communicate this information to prospective students. Wright replied that he thought this was communication clearly to students. These are not competing programs. We do not try to draw students from one track to another. We took your advice with the best practice section and the flexibility of the program is included in our new document. Waas stated that the program, college, and university should formulate a plan for upgrading the Hoffman Estates facility.
The strengths of the M.B.A. program include the strong, relevant benchmarking indicators that the program has development, and the program is responsive to feedback obtained by multiple stakeholders regarding curriculum and program administration. The alumni of the program view it as worthwhile and effective in skill development and career advancement, and the business-simulation competition included in the capstone course are also strengths of the program.
Areas for discussion include that the first learning outcome, which is relatively general and difficult to measure. The program is considering methods for portfolio assessment and employer surveys. The discussion of “increased costs” may not be necessary given the relatively low cost of the program. The increase in cost is within normal variability, and you should deemphasize this in the review. Wright replied that this has already been changed in the review. Waas said another area for improvement is the lack of students from underrepresented groups that matriculate into the program and the anticipated closure of the program offered in Rockford. Cassidy asked how students were recruited. Wright replied that there are many different sources used for recruitment: printed (brochures and mailings), radio ads, and open houses. We are always recruiting, and we do a lot of marketing. We could use help with marketing; I want NIU to be known. Tallon added that the program does TV marketing too. Cassidy asked if any of the marketing was targeting toward minority owned companies. Wright replied not specifically, but minorities for us include women. We have bought lists from some women’s organizations. We have dealt with Hispanic organizations too, but the Hispanic organizations are really looking for scholarships. We do have some minorities enrolled in the program. Levin added that first generation college students may or may not be minorities, but it would be difficult for this type of student to get their head around an M.B.A. program. It would be good if undergraduate students are aware of the M.B.A. program. Wright added that we are happy to talk to all these students. We take the recent graduate list and send out program materials to them. These students have a good experience here. We get many students from other states because of the flexibility and convenience of our program.
Waas stated that the recommendations for the future include identifying strategies for recruitment and retention of students from underrepresented groups and completing the consideration of portfolio assessment and employer survey methodologies. The program might want to consult with other departments within the college on the use of portfolio assessment and employer survey methodologies. There are also some discrepancies in a couple of tables that need to be corrected. Wright indicated that this has been rewritten. Waas said that it was a real pleasure to read about the M.B.A. program. Wright thanked Waas and the subcommittee on their thorough review of the program.
Waas turned to the strengths of the departmental context section of the Department of Accountancy review. One of the strengths of the department is the new state-of-the-art building that houses the College of Business. Another strength is the admission and retention policy that the department has instituted in their undergraduate program. Accountancy has a more rigorous policy than the other departments in the college. The faculty maintain significant involvement with professional organizations and the business community. There are detailed objectives regarding teaching, scholarship, recruitment, and program development, and the department is fully accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business-International (nationally about 20 percent of departments have achieved this accreditation).
The discussion points include clarifying the department’s contribution to the Illinois Commitment policy areas relating to access and diversity and accountability and productivity. These areas should be addressed in the review. The department and college provide a wide variety of services to assist students in their efforts to succeed in the programs, and these should also be described in the review. The retention policy in the department is more restrictive than the college policy. The department makes significant use of temporary faculty, and this is a pervasive issue within the college. Carnes said we will review the information on the Illinois Commitment and services we provide to students. The retention policy in the program goes back a long time, 30+ years. In the past every student took the Accountancy Qualifying Examination in their junior year. This exam covered content. Approximately 50 percent of our students are transfer students, and most of the other core areas are at the junior level. In 1994 the department reviewed this policy. The requirement was a 3.0 GPA and an “A” or “B” in ACCY206 and ACCY207 courses. If students don’t meet the criteria, we still give the qualifying exam. Effective in fall 2005 the GPA requirement was raise to a 3.2 due to higher enrollments, and the pass level on the Accountancy Qualifying Examination has remained the same. Students had difficulty with the junior level courses, and now this is done at the front-end. The enrollment in the master’s program has also grown. The department is also concerned that we have too many temporary faculty. Our full-time instructors have master’s degree and a CPA or other certification, and most live in Chicago and commute out. They do a great job, but they do not do scholarly research or service. Our tenure-track faculty are really feeling the service commitment. We did get a new tenure-track faculty position, and this will help. For AACSB accreditation 50 percent of our courses have to be taught by regular faculty, and during the last few years we have not met this requirement due to retirements. Legg asked how many accountancy programs are there in the United States. Carnes replied that there are 120 accredited programs and 600-700 total programs in the United States. There are also 600 accredited business programs. Legg asked if the national ranking was an absolute number. Carnes responded that it was. The undergraduate program has been ranked for over two decades, and the graduate program has been ranked for the last three to four years. To sit for the CPA exam you need to complete 150 hours of coursework, and this has increased our graduate enrollment quite a bit. We are moving now more to an afternoon program. We have had a graduate program for 30 to 40 years, but it has recently become more attractive due to the 150 hour requirement. We have moved up in ranking now because of the size or our master’s program.
Waas said that the department should continue monitoring the use of temporary faculty in core courses and develop methods to ensure high quality among the temporary faculty. Temporary faculty often times receive high student ratings, and they are doing a great job teaching. The missing element is the scholarly attitude.
Waas turned to the review of the B.S. in Accountancy. The strengths include the well defined learning experiences that have a clear linkage between learning objectives and pedagogical experiences and the evaluation efforts and findings from assessment. The program has a nice assessment package and has developed strong, relevant benchmarking indicators. The program attracts diverse students, and these students have a strong graduation record. The extensive internship experiences and the close linkages to the program learning objects is also a strength. This is an efficient program; the costs are significantly below the statewide average.
Discussion points include the low pass rate on the CPA exam (14 to 33 percent) and the many performance-based experiences that are not directly assessed. Carnes added that some undergraduate students take the CPA exam. The graduate programs purpose is not to prepare students for the CPA exam, but there are some critical courses that students are required to take that help them with the exam. The content of the CPA exam has been broadened during the last five years. When you leave with an undergraduate degree you are not prepared for the CPA exam. AACSB requires that 50 percent of the credit hours our students take have to be outside the department. We tell students what courses they need preparation in. The CPA review course is very good. I wish we could do something with the undergraduate students who do not go into our graduate program. Our first priority is the B.S. and then the M.A.S. If we had the resources, we might have a 150 hour completion track. There are some other professional designations (CMA, CIA, etc.) that can be taken with a four-year degree. Thompson asked if undergraduates were supposed to take the CPA. Carnes replied that the CPA is a license to practice, which allows a licensed individual to provide audit opinions. The 150 hour requirement is controlled at the state level. Bose asked if there are students interested in taking the CPA and they do not have the 150 hours, can you admit them as students-at-large and allow them to take the courses. Carnes replied that the courses are offered, but there aren’t any seats in them. The problem is offering more courses. Bose said that the department might want to think about offering a certificate in this area. Carnes replied that the department faculty have talked about offering the M.A.S. off campus, but we think we are overcommitted right now; a certificate might be a good alternative. Cassidy asked what advantage the students achieve by completing the master’s degree and the 150 hours. Carnes said it is just the focus of the skills. At the graduate level students do more research, writing, etc. Cassidy asked if graduates seek different jobs at higher starting salaries. Carnes replied not a lot. Approximately 60-70 percent of our graduates go into public accounting. Businesses want to hire students that are CPA ready. Part of the reason for this is that turnover in public accounting firms is about 80 percent every three years. The higher level skills obtained in the master’s program are for the graduate’s career. The 150 hour requirement to sit for the CPA exam has created some tension between academic institutions and hiring firms.
Waas noted that the recommendations for the future are to increase advisement regarding adequate preparation for the CPA exam and put a footnote on the CPA exam pass rate table that indicates what students you are reporting. Right now you are really comparing different information. You might want to consider deleting the table if it is not required. Cassidy noted that the program has the same problem with reporting pass rates on the CPA exam as with some initial teacher certification programs. My recommendation would be to compare apples and apples, and put the same table in both sections (undergraduate and graduate) and label it. Waas noted that the program should identify performance-based activities that could be utilized for assessment purposes.
The strengths of the Master’s in Accounting Science are the well articulated learning outcomes that have clear linkages to the curriculum; the program has developed strong, relevant benchmarking indicators; students perform well on the CPA exam (top 10 percent in the nation); and enrollment of underrepresented groups has increased. The faculty quality is strong, and the program has an active Executive Advisory Council.
Waas stated that discussion points are to continue developing the use of portfolios and to manage the rapid growth in enrollment. Enrollment has increase 218 percent in the last five years. Some of the growth was anticipated. Carnes replied that the growth was more than we anticipated; a higher percentage of students than we projected stayed due to the 150 hour requirement. We developed a very structured approach for how this program should be developed and communicated this to students. We had our top employers come out and meet with the students. With our current national rankings we are getting many more applications from non-NIU students. We have talked to the Executive Advisory Council quite a bit about this issue. We have also raised our standards somewhat because of high demand. We don’t want to become too elitists with the standards. We asked the Executive Advisory Council about marketing the M.A.S. nationally, and they said “no;” that these students aren’t going to stay in the Midwest and they want students from this region. Raising the GPA to 3.2 will also help with the master’s enrollment. We could reduce the M.A.S. enrollments and offer the 150 hour tract. We have the opportunity to decide what our focus will be. We do have great students and they are very strong. Waas asked if an argument could be made that sending students out nationally would also affect ranking. Carnes replied yes it would. Miami of Ohio admits 40 students into their graduate program each year. Legg added that we also live in a much bigger demand area than Miami of Ohio.
Waas noted that the recommendations for the future are to complete plans for the appropriate use of portfolio assessment and have a plan for program size and growth rate. Carnes added that the program has chosen a method for direct assessment, and said that he understood the key thing is that we are doing direct assessment; it doesn’t have to be a portfolio, right? We are considering some other things. We may stay with the portfolio or another direct measure would be OK. Cassidy replied yes; the selection of assessment methods is a faculty decision. How you do this is up to you, but the important thing is to retain a direct assessment method. Waas stated that his department uses portfolios, but it is not the only way that we assess. Cassidy added that you can look at course embedded assessments, which can be part of direct assessment as well. Douglass asked if there were particular alternatives the program is thinking about. Carnes replied that so many of the students participate in internships, which involves writing papers, oral presentations, etc. that we are thinking about designing a learning case project around these experiences. The cost of the M.A.S. puts us at a disadvantage. The tuition at other schools it higher, but all graduates are hired at the same salaries. The higher tuition that other schools charge creates some resources for them that we are not able to create here, and sometimes a low price gives the perception of low quality.
Waas turned to the review of the M.S. in Taxation program. This is a different kind of program; 95 percent of the students are full-time professionals. Strengths of the program are that it has well articulated learning objectives with explicit links to the curriculum, the increase in underrepresented groups’ enrollment, and the program has strong alumni university evaluations.
Discussion points are the examination of the portfolio assessment methodology, and the lack of alumni survey data reported in the review. This needs to be included in the review document.
Legg asked when the program was started. Carnes said that program began in 1997, and for the first five years there was tremendous growth. Now there is slow growth, and the class sizes are good. This is offered at the Hoffman Estates facilities, and the facility is run down.
Waas noted that in comparison to other programs, there are few non-tax courses available. Are students interested in these courses? Carnes replied that some students are, but most are probably not interested in non-tax courses. When students finish the M.S.T., we have them do an exit survey, and what we have found is that students are usually looking for other tax courses. The M.A.S. program has three areas of study, one of which is tax. The M.S.T. consists of 30 hours of tax courses. Firms that are hiring undergraduate students encourage them to finish the M.S.T. degree. I think if it was my son or daughter, I would tell them to go for the M.A.S. for the breadth.
Bose said that this program has a different fee structure. Carnes replied that since this is an off-campus program, it is set up like the M.B.A. The cost is $1,350 for a three credit hour course. It is more expensive. We do have some students that drive to the DeKalb campus to take some of the classes at on-campus rates.
Waas asked if the students are encouraged to take other tests besides the CPA. Carnes replied that there are two things going on here. One is a program introduced by the Institute of Internal Audits. We only have two students that have passed this test recently. What we found out a couple of years ago is that students are doing the course work, but they don’t turn in the paperwork. We are trying to communicate this better with the students. The CIA exam is a two day exam, and this is separate from the other tests. Graduate students can get this credential.
Legg thanked Waas and the subcommittee members for their thorough review, and Carnes thanked Linden for her hard work on producing the review.
The meeting adjourned at 4:40 p.m.
Carolyn A. Cradduck